Mexico made easy work of New Zealand in the first leg of their intercontinental play-off for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, beating the Kiwis 5-1 at the Estadio Azteca to put one foot into next year’s finals. New coach Miguel Herrera included only domestic-based players in the squad, opting to leave out the likes of Javier Chicharito Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Memo Ochoa.
On this chilly night in the Mexican capital, the home-based crew was more than up to the task in what was a welcome relief for fans who’ve suffered through a difficult qualifying campaign in CONCACAF.
The new boss’s gamble to leave out all of Mexico’s foreign-based stars looked like paying off early on in the first leg. The new-look El Tri took firm control of the game from the opening seconds and the Oceania side were down only 2-0 at the break because of the heroics of their goalkeeper Glen Moss.
From the opening whistle, the visitors – without captain and West Ham United defender Winston Reid – amassed a bank of ten players behind the ball, inviting Mexico to attack. And attack they did, producing a string of half-chances in the first quarter-hour. After 18 minutes, Moss had to be alert to punch clear a flying half-volley from Carlos Pena. Five minutes later, the Kiwi keeper was called upon to push a wicked dipping shot from distance from Javier Maza Rodriguez against the crossbar. He saved again from Raul Jimenez, but the fans in the Azteca could sense a goal was coming.
It arrived just after the half-hour mark, from the boot of Paul Aguilar – one of ten players in the side from Club America, where Mexico coach Herrera is also employed. Moss was unable to punch Luis Montes’ cross from the right far enough from danger and Aguilar was on hand to poke home from close in. Mexico, with all of the possession and creating all of the chances, made it 2-0 with five minutes left in the period. Raul Jimenez – also of America – headed home from the doorstep after a corner-kick flicked on by Oribe Peralta.
Peralta on form
Santos Laguna star Peralta continued to create havoc after the interval. Just seconds into the second period, he made the score 3-0 for Mexico. Miguel Layun collected a long ball from the back and pulled a low cross through the penalty area from the left, where Peralta – scorer for three goals in Mexico’s last four Hexagonal games – slotted home with no trouble at all. The game continued on with Mexico dominating all categories and the New Zealanders devoid of ideas to change their fate.
Despite the best efforts of the lively Moss, Peralta made it 4-0 with a pin-point header from 12 yards out with ten minutes to go. Veteran Rafa Marquez, Mexico’s captain, made it 5-0 three minutes later with another header before Chris James pulled a late consolation goal back for New Zealand to make the final score 5-1.
Just hours after Uruguay opened their play-off against Jordan with a 5-0 win, Mexico, who are on their fourth coach of the qualifying campaign, made it a good day for the Americas. Both sides look good to reach next year’s party in Brazil. The Mexicans travel to Wellington for the second leg against New Zealand on 20 November with a comfortable lead.